Traveling is amazing. You get to experience new cultures, meet new people, see new places. There’s just nothing quite like it. The only problem I can see with traveling, is the cost associated with it.
In this article, I’m going to tell you how I traveled across north america (twice!) with only $20 in my pocket when I left home, and how you can too (or at least not go bankrupt while traveling!).
SO – what are the highest costs associated with traveling?
#1. Transportation costs (especially if you plan on taking an airplane- I have literally never been on a plane just because of how overwhelming ticket prices are…. $1000 just to get there? No thank you)
#2. Accommodations. You probably don’t want to sleep on a sidewalk or in a park (although, if I’m being entirely honest, I have definitely done this a few times). We’ve got to find somewhere for you to stay, and spending $100 on hotels each night is in no way budget friendly (although staying in a fancy hotel is pretty fun)!
#3. Food. Eating out everyday is going to drain your budget almost as quick as that fancy hotel stay. I’m not saying you have to make yourself a peanut butter and jam sandwich everyday, but restaurants are expensive!
#4. And lastly, fun. You don’t want your entire trip to include only surviving in cool places. You want to be able to experience the place and all it has to offer.
Most of my trips included hitchhiking as my main method of transportation, and while it’s free AND super fun, most people will not be comfortable hitchhiking.
Read my article, Hitchhiking Safety Tips
If you want to take a plane, first check for any other option, because there is not much you can do to make a flight cheaper.
If you really want to take a plane, just check far enough in advance that you can plan your trip around the cheapest flight you can find.
You can sometimes cut $100 or so off your flight just by changing the day of the week you leave/return on.)
So once we rule out hitchhiking and flying, we are left with cars, boats, busses, and trains.
If driving is an option, ridesharing is the way to go. If you own a car and want to drive, consider posting ads on local sites like Kijiji (in canada) or Craigslist (In the US), or even things like Facebook or Instagram, with the goal of finding passengers who can pitch gas.
If you find three-four additional passengers, you can cut your gas cost by 75-80% and that is awesome.
If you don’t own a car, don’t worry. Check for rideshares on any of the places listed above, or even Couchsurfing (which I will get into more in accommodations).
A camper van is a great option as well, as you can sleep in it wherever you go.
I’m assuming you don’t own a boat (but if you do, why are you reading this?? If your trip is going down a coastline, why not sail down? There you have travel & accommodation covered!).
You can apply to work on cruise ships, which is ideal if you’re trying to get somewhere that crosses water!
Working on a cruise ship will cover travel, accommodation, AND give you a bit of extra cash in your pocket for when you get where you’re going!
Busses and trains:
If you buy tickets far enough in advance, you can get hugely discounted tickets. Megabus advertises tickets at as low as $1!!!
I have traveled on trains that have bar cars, and restaurants on it. If you have no time restrictions, why not apply as a bartender or cook? Another option that covers travel and accommodation!
So occasionally you might feel like spending $100+ to stay in a nice hotel, but do not make this an everyday thing!!
Some alternatives to pricey hotels include:
Bring a tent.. Or don’t!
The first time I went traveling I left with just under $20 in my pocket. I was 17 and I was depressed. I had been working two retail jobs and needed a change.
I bought myself a (super heavy) backyard hammock for $20 off kijiji.
A backpack from an army surplus store for like $15 (which seemed like a great deal at the time, but it was not made for traveling/hiking and because of a lack of padding would cut my shoulders!)
I spent four months hitchhiking around Canada and the United States with a hammock and a tarp… (I would wrap the tarp around the hammock if it was cold or raining!) It worked perfectly and I loved it, but it was super heavy.
Now, I would recommend a Hennessy Hammock (because it’s like a hammock and a tent had unprotected sex and created this miracle).
It is basically a hanging tent, so you don’t need to worry about rocks, or uneven ground or rain or anything. Just hang it up and get some sleep!
Check online for campsites, usually you can find them for around $30/night (which works out to less than $10 each if you found those 3-4 passengers!)
When camping isn’t even in the budget (or the area), try couchsurfing.
It is an online community of travellers, and people with traveler friendly homes. It is completely free to use, and you get to stay on a strangers couch (or in a spare bedroom, or sometimes on a floor!) for free.
It has over 14 million people in over 200, 000 cities, and each person has their own profile, so you can see and pick who you will be staying with.
I have used couch-surfing a number of times and I love it!!! I love meeting new people and sharing stories and experiences with them. It is my go to option when I’m staying in a big city!
Stay in a hostel! You can find rooms for under $20/night in some cities and it’s another awesome way to meet new people and make new friends! You might even find your next travel buddy!!
Setting aside all of these options, you can always just make friends with locals.
I have traveled to tons of cities and in almost all of them someone has invited me to stay with them! If you are comfortable going to a strangers house (I totally am), there’s another free place to stay, and a new friend!
SO for food, I like to go to the GROCERY STORE! Sounds crazy?
If you’re camping, bring a pot and you can make some awesome food right over the fire (I’ve had fire spaghetti, fire soup, fire sandwiches, and deep fried fire oreos[although the oreos were a disaster, we almost burned down northern california with that choice])
Make sure you have water to put out your fire, and something to smother the fire with if it is an oil fire!!
If you are staying at someone’s house, (new friend, couchsurfer), you can use their kitchen, and I bet they’ll even let you use their dishes & cookware!
My go to food for when I’m broke and traveling is french bread with avocado, and cosmic brownies for dessert.
If I’m feeling rich (have more than $10) I like to get a tomato and some brie cheese as well! It’s awesome for picnics (as I spend most of my time outside when I’m traveling) and for sharing with new friends!
When someone invites you to do something, say yes!!
In most cities, locals will have a pretty good idea of what is fun, and where to find cheap thrills!!
Whatever you want to do, post it on couchsurfing! (yes, it’s not just for finding places to stay, it’s also awesome for meeting locals who can show you around their city!)
Maybe you want to visit a museum – someone might have a membership that allows them to bring you for free! Maybe you want to see live music – someone knows where to find free shows.
Basically, people are awesome, and your adventures will be too if you connect with people. The more you include others in your adventures, the more adventures you will have 🙂
Thanks for reading!